Horwath says investments, not cuts, needed at hospitals

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it’s critical that the Ontario government start investing in our health care system, after years of Liberal and Conservative budget cuts and freezes have left hospitals overcrowded and families worried about their loved ones who need help.

On Friday, Horwath made that call in front of St. Joe's West 5th hospital, where 11 suicides involving in-patients and out-patients have taken place in just 18 months. Yet, another $7 million in cuts are slated to take place at St. Joe's this year as a result of the Wynne government's underfunding.

In support of getting to the root of the problems, Horwath called for a Coroner’s Inquest into those 11 suicides, including the death of Welland man Daniel Reale. 

Overcrowding, funding cuts pushing Ontario hospitals to breaking point: NDP

NDP Health Critic France Gélinas says funding cuts and long wait times are compromising care for patients in her riding of Nickel Belt, and across the province.

“Health Sciences North, our hospital, provides complex treatment to people all across the northeast. Unfortunately, not only are wait times getting longer and longer, but Health Sciences North, like most other large community hospitals in our province, now has hallway medicine as the new normal,” said Gélinas. “The Ontario Hospital Association is warning that overcrowding is leading to a crisis. Even our province’s neonatal units are overcrowded and turning away our sickest of newborn babies.”

The previous Conservative government in Ontario laid off 6,000 nurses and closed 28 hospitals across the province. Since then, subsequent Liberal governments have continued to underfund hospitals and other health care services, leading to what the Ontario Hospital Association calls a ‘capacity crisis.’

Gélinas described how long wait times and over-stretched resources are affecting one of her constituents.

“My constituent has a kidney condition. It could be life-threatening and it is definitely painful. Her specialist needs her to have a CAT scan before he can determine the best course of treatment for her condition,” explained Gélinas. “He referred her for a CAT scan in June. In July, she was informed that her appointment for her CAT scan is at the end of January 2018.”

The NDP MPP pushed the Minster of Health to address the issue.

“Does the minister think that a six-month wait for a diagnostic test is putting patients first? And does he think that it would lead to good patient care?,” she asked. “What will it take for this minister to admit that our hospitals – which used to be the crown jewel of our health care system – are now dangerously close to the breaking point?”

Angry Windsor flood victims caught in the gap: MPP Hatfield

During question period today, Windsor-Tecumseh NDP MPP Percy Hatfield demanded that the Wynne government present a plan for Windsor area flood victims who are caught in the gap between private insurance and Ontario’s disaster recovery assistance.

“People in Windsor are angry and disappointed with the government’s response to the recent flooding disaster,” said Hatfield.  “The minister of Municipal Affairs said private insurance was readily available. The insurance Bureau of Canada told him he was wrong.”

This is the second time in less than 12 months Windsor area residents were hammered with rainfall that overwhelmed the municipal drainage infrastructure. In 2016, over 200 flood victims were denied assistance through the Provincial Disaster Recovery Assistance Program while many are still waiting for their claims to be processed. Insurance companies won’t continue to cover re-occurring flooding while the provincial program won’t cover sewer back-ups.

“Extreme weather events are hitting all parts of Ontario,” said Hatfield. “Natural disasters caused by heavy rains are occurring too frequently. This government is downloading the effects of climate change onto ordinary citizens.”

“How will the premier close the gap in coverage between private insurance and the government’s disaster assistance recovery program?” asked Hatfield.

NDP Transportation critic presses Wynne government to stand up for Ontario’s auto industry

During question period today, NDP Transportation critic and Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates questioned the Liberal government regarding the ongoing strike at the Ingersoll CAMI automotive plant, which has raised concerns about automotive jobs leaving the province for production sites in Mexico. 

“There are close to 3,000 CAMI auto workers who have been on strike in Ingersoll since last week. I visited them last night,” said Gates. “It’s obvious this province has no auto strategy, which means companies across Ontario can close and move production to Mexico, simply to maximize their profits. This hurts workers and the communities they live in.”

Currently in bargaining with General Motors, Unifor Local 88, which represents workers at the Ingersoll plant, are hoping to ensure that they remain the lead plant in North America for the production of the Chevrolet Equinox. The work stoppage could affect other plants on the supply chain, like St. Catharines, as early as Monday.

“The CEO of GM made $22.6 million last year while demanding that workers freeze their wages, cut their benefits, cut their pensions and accept a two-tier wage system,” said Gates. “Last year CAMI saw record profits. Yet there are still fears that GM is going to move production of the Equinox out of Ontario.” 

“There are over 15,000 more workers affected across the province. If the CAMI jobs are lost, those jobs are lost too. An auto strategy would recognize this fact.”   

“These Unifor workers are fighting to keeps jobs here in Ontario - why isn’t this Liberal government fighting as hard as they are?” asked Gates.

Horwath brings local long-term care concerns to Queen’s Park

In her fight to end the seniors care crisis in Ontario, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath brought the difficult stories of families with loved ones in long-term care to Queen’s Park today. Horwath demanded that the Wynne Liberals immediately expand the scope of the Wettlaufer inquiry to include systemic issues in long-term care that families say are devastating seniors in care homes throughout the province -- understaffing, underfunding, and a lack of standards of care.

“This summer a woman named Mira came to Queen’s Park to tell the Liberal government about the tragic circumstances of her mother’s long term care facility in Sudbury,” said Horwath. “Mira told us about finding her mom after almost 17 hours in bed. No one had fed her, no one had helped her reach the bathroom, no one had even shifted her body so she didn’t get bed sores. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the awful stories loved ones tell about family members in care.”

Horwath also told the legislature about Windsor resident Margo, whose father has been slipping by the rarely staffed front entrance in his long-term care home to wander around Windsor on his own.

She talked about a woman in Georgian Bay, whose dad was admitted to hospital with an infection and wasn’t supposed to be released back home without round the clock care which the family couldn’t provide, but was forced out, against doctor’s orders, in order to get on the wait-list for long-term care.

Horwath's push to investigate and address the long-term care crisis in Ontario would be done in two phases. The first will focus on the murders committed by Elizabeth Wettlaufer, and the second will take a broad look at issues like underfunding, hours of hands on care for residents including overall staffing levels, enforcement policies, care protocols and the 30,000-person wait-list.

“We need a find and fix approach,” said Horwath. “We need to take a broad look at seniors care in Ontario through an in-depth inquiry, and when we find a problem, we need to actually do something to fix it, immediately, so that families can rest assured that their loved ones are getting the best care possible.”

Horwath has committed that an NDP government would immediately broaden the scope of the Wettlaufer inquiry to include systemic issues in long-term seniors care.

“If the Wynne Liberals won’t do this, the NDP will,” said Horwath. “This is about the well-being, health and dignity of our parents and grandparents and the NDP won’t shy away from the problems in the system."

Statement from Andrea Horwath on Cheri DiNovo

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued the following statement regarding NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo’s announcement that she will be stepping down as MPP for Parkdale-High Park as of January 1, 2018:
“Today, my friend and fellow New Democrat Cheri DiNovo let the people of Ontario know that she has been called to return to ministry in the new year. 
Cheri’s faith and passion for ministry helped shape her into the devoted community organizer and social justice activist she is today. As an MPP, Cheri has been a tireless advocate for her community, for LGBTQ2SI Ontarians, and a very effective legislator. She has been a voice for many Ontarians who might otherwise have felt voiceless, and she will be missed in the legislature.
On behalf of all New Democrats, I would like to extend thanks to Cheri for her years of service to Ontarians, and to the NDP, and best wishes as she prepares for an exciting new chapter in her life.”

Ontario Trans patients struggle to access care

NDP LGBTQ Issues critic Cheri DiNovo says that despite legal protections, Trans patients are being denied equal access to health care in Ontario.

“It’s been five years since the government passed Toby’s Law, granting Trans people protections under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Yet there is no equality for Trans folk when it comes to accessing health care,” said DiNovo this morning in question period. 

“My constituent, Luke Fox, who is here today, has suffered just trying to get basic follow-up care after surgery. The lack of care has left him absolutely housebound. Why is the government denying Luke access to follow-up care?”

Toby’s Law, introduced by DiNovo in 2012, amends Ontario’s Human Rights Code to specify that every person has a right to equal treatment without discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.

“[Luke is] one of many who have been unable to access health care. The government is not even planning on offering many of the surgery options that Trans folk need. In Ontario, there are now thousands on wait-lists, often under dire circumstances, waiting for necessary care—care that is, five years later, still only available outside the province,” said DiNovo, asking:

“When exactly will equality in health care be offered to our Trans community?”


Campbell to Wynne: Stop blaming First Nations and twin Highway 17

Today in question period, Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell demanded that the Wynne government stop blaming First Nations for delays, and finally act on the long-delayed twinning of Highway 17.  
“Residents in Kenora-Rainy River were shocked last month when they learned that the long-delayed twinning of Highway 17 has been delayed yet again,” said Campbell. “Even more shocking is that instead of accepting responsibility for the delay, the minister of Northern Development blamed Shoal Lake #39 First Nation.”

Horwath, NDP MPPs celebrate rural Ontario at International Plowing Match

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and the NDP MPPs celebrated the contributions and future of Ontario's agricultural producers at the annual International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in Walton, Tuesday. While in Walton, Horwath said that it’s time for a premier that invests in rural families and agricultural producers, including health care and education close to home, and takes action to deliver relief from sky-high hydro bills.

"I want to thank every farm family for your hard work,” said Horwath. “Every day, you help feed nearly 14 million Ontarians, and the world beyond our province. You never let us down, and you deserve a premier that never lets you down – that means ending the rural school closures and investing in our students, ensuring that there’s good health care close to home for all families, and it means delivering more affordability for your business and for your family, including by bringing Hydro One back into public hands so we have some control over hydro bills, again.”

Ontario's agricultural sector is a vital part of Ontario’s economy, generating more than $36 billion in GDP and accounting for one of every nine Ontario jobs. Horwath said it’s critical that producers have a premier that’s ready to listen to them.

“Farming families need a real partner in government that understands the unique challenges and exciting opportunities in running a successful business in rural Ontario,” said Horwath. “As we celebrate the rich rural culture of our province, we need to do everything we can to give the next generation the opportunity to choose to build their future in rural Ontario. That starts with a government that listens to producers and is ready to work with Ontario farms to help them take their place as world leaders in agriculture and agribusiness.”


NDP mental health ministry PMB passes crucial vote

Today, an NDP bill that would create a ministry devoted to mental health and addictions passed a critical vote in the legislature. Every Wynne Liberal present voted against the improvement for mental health and addictions -- but several left the house before the vote, allowing those in favour to outnumber the Liberals. 
“By voting against this important legislation, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are showing Ontarians exactly where their priorities lie,” said Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath. “Across this province, people living with addiction and mental health issues are struggling to access the care and resources they need. People requiring urgent care are left languishing on waiting lists, or are simply being left to fend for themselves where no programs exist at all.
“Mental health and addiction services should be more than an afterthought, but with programs spread across multiple ministries, it hasn’t had the attention or focus it needs. Creating a separate ministry would put in place the coordination, dedicated resources and attention currently missing in Ontario – and that would move us forward, towards better health for those living with mental health challenges or addiction.”
The legislation, introduced by NDP Health critic France Gélinas, would create a new ministry tasked with – amongst other things –  “[leading] the transformation of Ontario’s mental health and addictions services; … [ensuring] that all Ontario residents have timely and equitable access to an integrated system of mental health and addictions care; … and [ensuring] that all Ontarians can seamlessly navigate mental health and addictions supports.”
The last Conservative government gutted Ontario’s health care system, laying off thousands of front line staff – including 6,000 nurses – and closing dozens of hospitals. This Liberal government has only made things worse by freezing hospital budgets and leaving our health care staff without the resources they need to do their jobs.
“Creating a ministry to focus on mental health and addictions will set us up to deliver better health to Ontario people. I look forward to working with my fellow New Democrats to keep pushing this legislation until we get the job done, and taking the next step to help Ontario families living with mental health and addiction issues,” said Gélinas.  “For mental health and addiction services, we can do so much better. Creating a ministry to focus on mental health and addictions will set us up to deliver better health to Ontario people.”

Ontario’s New Democrats pass motion to find and fix systemic issues in long term care

Today, Ontario’s New Democrats passed a critical motion to broaden the inquiry into the long-term care homes system to include understaffing, underfunding and other systemic issues.

The motion passed despite opposition from the Wynne Liberal government. Now, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she'll be focused on getting action, so seniors and their families aren't disappointed again. 

“Seniors and their families continue to experience resident-on-resident violence and staff shortages in long-term care,” said Horwath. “It’s time to do something about this. We have a chance – with an expanded inquiry – to find and fix what’s broken in seniors care in Ontario.”

Before the vote on the motion, Horwath and NDP Long-Term Care and Seniors’ Affairs critic Teresa Armstrong hosted dozens of people from across the province with loved ones in care. They called on the Wynne Liberals to pass the NDP motion, expand the public inquiry into long-term care homes and get to the bottom of poor and all too often dangerous conditions.

"The people who came to Queen’s Park today each have a story about how our system is failing their loved ones,” said Armstrong. “Together, we got some movement -- but we’re not going to stop here. The Wynne government must expand the long-term care inquiry immediately — our seniors and their families cannot afford to wait any longer.”

Horwath and Armstrong, joined by families around the province, are calling for a two-phase inquiry into long-term care. The first phase would look specifically at the Wettlaufer murders, the second would consider systemic issues like quality of care, funding and staffing levels. 

“No one should have to live without basic dignity,” said Horwath. “It’s time to get to the bottom of the problems in seniors’ care – and do something about it. I know that we can take care of our parents and grandparents so much better than we do today.”

We’re failing our seniors: Ontario’s New Democrats call for vote on public inquiry into systemic issues in long-term care

Today, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and NDP Long-Term Care and Seniors' Affairs critic Teresa Armstrong announced the NDP will introduce a motion to immediately broaden the scope of the inquiry into the long-term care homes system to include systemic issues in long-term care – including understaffing, underfunding and quality of care.
“Long-term care in this province has reached a breaking point,” said Horwath. “Some families feel powerless as their parents or grandparents live in fear of resident-on-resident violence. And for many, understaffing means a lack of help, health and dignity. We’ve heard of residents left in bed for 18 hours. We’ve heard of residents who don’t get enough help for basic hygiene, or even to get to the bathroom on time. Most workers try their very best to deliver support and care, but they are run off their feet.
“It doesn’t need to be this way. An expanded inquiry will give us an honest picture of systemic issues in long-term care — issues we can solve.”
In August, Ontario launched a public inquiry into the long-term care specific to the conditions that allowed multiple murders to be committed by Elizabeth Wettlaufer, but the Wynne government limited scope of the inquiry so it does not include systemic issues like quality of care, funding or staffing levels. Horwath and families throughout Ontario pushed then for a broader inquiry, but their calls were ignored. Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Horwath and Armstrong were joined by families from across Ontario who continue to be let down by the system. Their loved ones can’t wait any longer for action.
“Governments have ignored these issues, and ignored families, for too long,” said Armstrong. “Seniors care has deteriorated ever since the Conservatives fired 6,000 nurses and closed thousands of hospital beds, and families continue to be disappointed as conditions deteriorate further under Wynne. It’s time for a clear understanding of the issues in seniors long-term care – when we find the root causes of the problems, we can fix them.”

NDP Statement on Sudbury bribery trial

NDP Justice critic Gilles Bisson issued the following statement on the ongoing bribery trial of Liberal insiders relating to the 2015 Sudbury by-election:

“From today’s testimony, it's clear Kathleen Wynne was involved from the beginning. She knew what was happening in Sudbury, and she provided direction throughout the lead-up to that by-election.

Today, we’ve also heard a lot of new information that she failed to provide when asked repeatedly by media and in the legislature. Yet Kathleen Wynne often still responded to questions by saying she couldn't recall or didn't clearly remember.

This scandal speaks to the quality of leadership – or lack thereof – in the Ontario Liberal Party, and this government. Ontarians deserve better. They deserve a government that's not focused on itself, but one that's focused on Ontario’s families.”

NDP: Liberal government abandoning small communities

Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof says the future of small Ontario communities is being brought into question by a Liberal government more focused on making money than serving Ontario’s residents fairly, whose long list of cuts now include LCBO locations critical to local families and tourism-driven communities.

“The area around Larder Lake has about 1,000 residents. The town has one gas station, one co-op grocery store, two restaurants, several tourist lodges and campgrounds and, until recently, it had one LCBO outlet. In a northern Ontario tourist town, an LCBO outlet is an anchor store,” explained Vanthof during question period this morning. “Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the LCBO could no longer stay in their current location. But instead of moving locations, they … abandoned the town. They abandoned the residents.

Ontario households squeezed by worst income growth in Canada

Despite paying high prices for everything from hydro to housing, Ontario households faced the slowest median income growth in the nation according to 2016 Census data from Statistics Canada.

“This report shows what families already know – they’re being squeezed,” said NDP Economic Development critic Catherine Fife. “Household costs have gone up under Kathleen Wynne, but wages are being held back.

NDP: Wynne Liberals ignoring pension crisis, letting down Ontario Sears workers

With Sears Canada in court this week applying to scrap its pension, Ontario’s New Democrats are calling on the Wynne Liberals to finally take action protect Ontario workers and pensioners during bankruptcy proceedings.

“The Sears pensioners are getting the rug pulled out from under them and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government is looking the other way,” said Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “Liberal and Conservative governments in Ontario have ignored and mistreated workers and pensioners so investors, creditors and bankscould pocket even more money.”

Wynne government failing Windsor flood victims: MPP Hatfield

Today, NDP Municipal Affairs and Housing critic and Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield demanded that the Wynne government change the criteria for assistance through the Ontario Disaster Recovery Assistance Program to allow families experiencing sewer backups to qualify.

“Criteria for Ontario’s disaster relief assistance program were written in the last century,” said Hatfield. “Sewer backup claims during torrential rainfalls aren’t covered. In our area - We had more than 6,000 homes flooded recently and the minister of Municipal Affairs took a look and says few of them will qualify under the existing guidelines. Well duh – let’s change the guidelines.”

New Democrats commit to creating a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions

Today, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and NDP Health Critic France Gélinas announced legislation to create a ministry devoted to mental health and addictions in Ontario. 
“Everyone who needs access to mental health or addiction services should be able to get them, when they need them,” said Horwath. “But that’s simply not happening in Ontario today. Too many people requiring urgent addiction treatment are left languishing on waiting lists. And too many people desperate for mental health care are being let down by the Wynne government – which treats mental health and addictions as an afterthought, left to fight for funding in an already-underfunded health care system.” 
“Mental health and addictions services need more resources, more funding and more attention. I believe that having a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions will help us get there.”
Horwath and Gélinas were joined at a press conference by Noah Irvine, a high school student from Guelph who lost both his parents to mental illness.
“I hope all parties will show support for this bill. We need to make mental health and addictions a real priority,” said Irvine. Seven years ago, the all-party select committee made important recommendations, but almost nothing has been done. We can’t wait any longer for action to improve mental health and addictions services.”
In 2010, the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions issued 23 recommendations to improve mental health and addictions services, including the creation of Mental Health and Addictions Ontario.
“Seven years later Ontario still does not have a Mental Health and Addictions system,” said Gélinas. “Ontario’s mental health and addictions services are scattered across 11 different Ministries. Depending on who you are and where you live the services that are available to you vary greatly. It’s time to give mental health and addictions a home, and the focus and attention it needs for us to start delivering care families can count on.”